MONDAY, Oct. 20, 2008 - Daniel Raymon (Prickle in Alaska? / Energetic almost to a fault / Film figure with fangs, for short)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CHANGE DIRECTION (38A: Take a new path ... or a hint to 20-, 36-, 41- and 57-Across) - four theme answers are the cardinal points of a compass followed by their respective anagrams

I was a bit slow on this one. Though no part of the puzzle was particularly thorny, there were a number of places where I needed multiple crosses to get answers. Always slows me down when I can't throw that first long Across answer across the grid - had the NORTH part, but at that point (early) I didn't know the theme, so 20A: Prickle in Alaska? meant nothing to me. If it had been "Prick in Alaska?," I might have had a shot. Or I might have written in TED STEVENS (buh-dum-bum - cymbal crash). BE OK (31D: "Everything will _____" ("Don't worry")) proved the hardest answer to uncover. Needed every cross, and even then, for a split second, I didn't understand. I sort of like STOCKHOLM (37D: Capital on the Baltic Sea), JIGSAW (27D: Interlocking puzzle), and DAFFODIL (40D: Flower in Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"), but otherwise, this puzzle was just OK for me. I do like that three of the five theme answers come in consecutive Acrosses in the middle of the puzzle. That seems fancy.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Prickle in Alaska? (north thorn)
  • 36A: Simmered dish in California? (west stew)
  • 38A: Take a new path ... or a hint to 20-, 36-, 41- and 57-Across (change direction)
  • 41A: Chair in Maine? (east seat)
  • 57A: Scream in Alabama? (south shout)

This puzzle has a super-contemporary clue in 22A: 2008 film about a hunchbacked lab assistant ("Igor"), and another fresh film clue in 62A: Paul of "Knocked Up" (Rudd). Always nice to find new ways to dress up old fill like IGOR. As for RUDD ... he is handsome. The NYT puzzle once again shows itself to be in the tank for Democrats, with no references to McCain but two to revered Democratic presidents of the past - FDR (44A: Gov. Landon, who lost to F.D.R. - ALF) and Truman (24A: Mrs. Truman - BESS). While the fill on this puzzle is kind of boring, it is mercifully short on abbreviations and ugh-y xword fill. AWNS (32D: Plant bristles) and SHAY (34D: One-horse carriage) are among that large set of short words that constant solvers just have in their pockets. They aren't as common as your IGORs and your ERGOs, but they strike me as crosswordesey nonetheless. A word like PERK, however, seems fresh and lively and interesting. Maybe it's the "K." Or the fact that it rhymes with "PERT," or sounds coffee-related. I'm not sure what my point is here, so I'll just stop.

Remainder table:

  • 14A: Energetic almost to a fault (type-A) - not an answer I was looking for on a Monday, giving me a slower-than-normal NW corner.
  • 45A: Film figure with fangs, for short (Drac) - alliteration! But he's originally from a book, so how about [Novel notable also known as "Nosferatu"]? I'm kidding, that's terrible.
  • 60A: Pop singer Brickell (Edie) - here's the thing about EDIE Brickell. You had to be paying attention to pop music for a window of about 6 months around 1988 to know who she is from firsthand experience. I was a freshman in college, so her one big hit, "What I Am," is permanently imprinted on my brain, for better or worse.

  • 58D: The Beatles' "_____ a Woman" ("She's") - see, if I'd hit college 20 years earlier, I might have had this song imprinted on my brain:

  • 65A: "The Danny _____ Show" of the 1960s ("Kaye") - I thought the "of the 1960s" part of this clue was unnecessary, but I guess people need to know that it's not "The Danny Bonaduce Show"
  • 50D: Mario's brother in Nintendo's Mario Bros. (Luigi) - also the name of the Italian chef on "The Simpsons"
  • 54D: Medical tube (stent) - like that this has rotational symmetry with STINT in the NW (1D: Time in the army, say).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


des 11:17 PM  

I guess everyone else is watching the playoff game.

Got somewhat stuck in the southwest with a mispelling of RUDD (for some reason thinking it was RAAD) for a while.

Rex, I was suprised that you were so blase about DRAC - that's the kind of thing that usually sets you off. Was it because it was a Monday puzzle?

qv 11:55 PM  

Twelve minutes for me, solving nice and steady on the Blackberry with that neat MagMic software I somehow acquired free by signing up as a beta tester right here at Rex central.

And from one who DID hit college 20 years earlier, thanks for the Beatles clip, I believe every word of that whole album is indeed imprinted irreversibly somewhere in my grey matter.

Crosscan 12:12 AM  

Well NORTH is up and SOUTH is down - but why is EAST to the left and WEST to the right? A CHANGE in DIRECTION perhaps?

George 12:13 AM  

I'd have pegged this one as challenging for Monday. Even with a couple of gimmes, I had some trouble NE and SW.

I also liked the theme very much for its simplicity. Going from "LIE UNDER OATH" to "CHANGE DIRECTIONS" was cathartic, or something.

foodie 12:14 AM  

This one did not rock my world. And it did seem slow for a Monday. But I agree that looking back, it seems well constructed and nothing too esoteric.I'm still getting used to doing this with Across Lite, so may be that's it.

Favorite answer by far: LUIGI, clued as Mario's brother in Nintendo. I still remember playing for hours with my son, or after I sent him to bed... just thinking of it makes my fingers itch and evokes that weird little tune that kept me hopping.

And now I have no puzzle to do first thing tomorrow morning with my coffee. May be the "Split Decisions" puzzle in the Sunday Magazine.

andrea carla michaels 1:33 AM  

I LOVED this puzzle!
Even tho I think it was my fastest solve (about 5 minutes) the construction blew me away! I was totally jealous...
A) that Daniel noticed ALL four directions have an anagram
B) He didn't need tortured definitions to clue them
C) all that plus CHANGEDIRECTION right across the middle...
D) the central three theme-stack as aforemention mentioned

Literally the only thing that would have made it even above and beyond is if the EASTSEAT was in the East and the WESTSTEW was in the West, but really this was quite fabulous!

I think folks still have no idea how hard it is to get in five themes on a all these answers that are as long as the themes (DAFFODIL, RESTRAINT, STOCKHOLM, PRAGMATIC,CASESTUDY, OVERSEER) which normally I wouldn't like or would find confusing, but they were all vertical and this theme was so solid and so right there!

I'm stunned when people pull off these marvelous construction feats and fun ideas and the theme/construction goes almost unnoticed...
(like Patrick Blindauer's dollar bill Monday which i think is the best Monday puzzle EVER) and people either don't notice, care, or worse, complain that the odd shape made them slow down on time!

This was one beautiful puzzle!

Only misstart for me was HYPER for TYPEA.

I too find DRAC totally suspect...(esp bec it prob could have been reworked into BRAC or TRAC)
Am also surprised Rex didn't sink his teeth into that one...perhaps he was a-blinded by the alliteration.

EDIE Brickell did surprise me as she was practically just a one-hit wonder for about a year.
(Granted a ubiquitous one...and so original!)

From what I undersatnd, she gave it all up to marry and have babies with Paul Simon.
He was like 50 when she was 25... but they've been together for like 15 years, 3 kids...despite the 25 year age gap, so I guess that's gotta count for something!

What playoff game?

kevin der 3:09 AM  

liked the theme. as others have pointed out, it would have been even better if the directional words were in the corresponding part of the grid. i think even more so if they were going in the right direction, so north and south as down entries, east and west as across entries. i haven't checked if this would have been possible with the CHANGE DIRECTION entry (could have been up or down), but it's worth the investigation.

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Did the crossing of JIGSAW (27D) with SAW (47A) and the proximity of those words to SEWS (57) strike anybody else?

wendy 8:01 AM  

I had a rare Monday impasse because I confidently put my favorite synonym for SOON - Anon - in the spot where Soon was supposed to go, and because I also had Esta instead of ESOS, I could never break free of the problem or figure out TIVO to make my error clear.

On Mondays, isn't ALF usually clued as the mangy alien, instead of the FDR opponent?

Shamik 8:31 AM  

Wow. I am so slow in the head this morning. Found this one to be a medium time for me on a Monday at just under 5 minutes. But as far as realizing that the clues were points of the compass...right over my foggy head. Just thought they were changing the direction of the letters of the first word...and again solved 38A before getting any of the theme answer.

Only one mis-start for me...more blanks, but here is today's:


Initially, I balked at GOTCHA with "cha" being a slang for you. But then remembered I don't quibble about FER, AIN'T, etc.

Janie 8:54 AM  

my best monday time ever, too -- just over 5 minutes. i'm pretty much a towards-the-back-of-the-pack solver, so while i'd like to think this is a harbinger of change in my solving times, i feel fairly confident in saying this will NEVER happen again -- but it sure feels nice today. ;-)

and for newbies -- i've been doing the dailies for about two years only -- after doing only the sunday for about a hundred and seven years. it *is* possible to improve, acquire more solving skills, *finish* 'em at one's own rate. no kiddin'!

i'm in the camp that *highly* admires the concept and construction here. a real gem. take a bow, daniel raymon!



ArtLvr 8:59 AM  

DRAC? DRAC? It cannot BEOK! CLEO yes. DRAC no. Yuck.

Otherwise a good puzzle, with East and West amusingly transposed to add another layer of meaning to CHANGEDIRECTION, but North and South would have had to be flipped too, to make it totally consistent...

I didn't have any trouble with this, except for slowing at [Pawns] as I was thinking chess and manipulated people rather than the verb HOCKS. Could that also be clued as short for hollyhocks or horses' ankles? Anyway, nice cross with GOTCHA!


docruth 9:08 AM  

Dear Rex, I'm popping in from syndication land to note that today's syndicated puzzle in my paper is now FOUR weeks behind. The last time this happened (switched from 6 to 5) I assumed my dear local paper had screwed up. Now it appears they're trying to move the syndicated puzzle closer to the "real" puzzle date--perhaps to one week, like the Sunday? All of this would be OK with me, except because of your blog I'm aware that I am now going to miss a full week of puzzles that might possibly be life-altering or amazing in some way. Grumble. They're probably trying to get me to subscribe or something. I might do it. Rats.

George 9:30 AM  

@ anonymous,

I also noticed the JIGSAW/SAW intersection, and really, really didn't like it.

I'm not as worked up about DRAC as everybody else. I just think it could've been clued harder--even on a Monday.

Rob 10:03 AM  


Very deadpan to write that no part of the puzzle was particularly "thorny" for you, and then reveal that you actually had a moment's pause when solving "North Thorn." Whether you meant it or not, I love it.

I also paused on that clue - I was certain (for a moment) that Prickle had to be one Sarah Palin's kids... right?

Rob (Long-time reader, first-time commenter)

joho 10:06 AM  

I thought this to be a fine Monday puzzle my only problem being that my printer is out of black ink and I had to solve on line. I much prefer ink on paper to fingers on keys.

Clever theme well executed.

This week is off to a great start!
Now I'm off to Staples .....

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

Found this a usual Monday puzzle - enjoyment, time, and difficulty all where they belong.

On the DRAC issue, having started with VLAD on my first pass, (I'm a do all the A's then the D's solver), having it not be so, was enough of a challenge for a Monday first coffee morning.


Doug 10:09 AM  

Am I the only one who was kind of annoyed at the clue for PRAGMATIC? "Hardheaded" is really a stretch. Nobody I know uses it in that context and the definitions I looked up weren't even close. I know "practical" is too close to the word, but couldn't the constructor or editor come up with something a little better?

Rifka 10:10 AM  

I thought at first that the ALASKA PRICKLE was Palin!

There was also REST/REST embedded in the northwest corner (4D/17A) which had me looking for similar crosses that might be theme related! And when did TIVO become a verb?

aunthattie 10:14 AM  

Pretty clever for a Monday- I don't usually expect word tricks. Got Drac after sticking with Bela for too long-- I never heard of anyone using a nickname for Dracula! Who would dare. What playoff game?? Not a baseball fan, I guess. I myself was stuck at Ruby Tuesday with three grandsons watching the endless Jets game--had to leave an extra big tip.

Ulrich 11:03 AM  

OK--someone has to be the first: I really, really did not like the theme (sorry, Andrea!). Yes, it's intriguing to see that each of the four cardinal compass directions is an anagram of a common word. But to me, the puzzle doesn't do anything with it. The phrases that string the direction and its scrambled version together go from barely OK to groan-inducing (west stew, south shout--are you kidding?). And then, north and south are in the correct position, but east and west aren't--once I saw this, I was through with th theme.

I did liked most of the fill, especially three of the four 9-letter words--but that was too little, too late.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

@rifka said...
And when did TIVO become a verb?

I think it was Sept. 15, 2004 when Charlie Schwartz asked his girlfriend to TiVo the Red Sox game.

Orange 11:28 AM  

Doug, I felt the same so I looked up "pragmatic" and "hardheaded" in the Mac's dictionary. Hardheaded = "practical and realistic, not sentimental," which sounds a lot like "pragmatic"—and the built-in thesaurus includes "hardheaded" as a synonym for "pragmatic."

I suspect a lot of us have been using "hardheaded" to mean "obstinate," but the "headed" words that are synonyms for "obstinate" are "bullheaded" and "pigheaded." I also suspect that in a few decades, many dictionaries will list this as another meaning for "hardheaded."

Noam D. Elkies 11:37 AM  

Nice too that the four cardinal points are clued uniformly as "in [US STATE]" with a state emblematic (within the USA) of that direction.

Which reminds me of an old geography chestnut: which of the 50 states is the furthest
i) North,
ii) East,
iii) West,
iv) South?


fikink 11:41 AM  

@rifka, I like the way you think!
@doug, agree wholeheartedly with you on PRAGMATIC. "Commonsensical" would have been more appropriate, IMO. But Orange, I take your point. I do think of hardheaded people as being stubborn - nice explication. thanks!
Overall, I am kinda blase about the fill, but this one does highlight the aesthetic which enlightens those of of us who tend to concentrate too much on fill.

foodie 11:43 AM  


Welcome to the chatting crowd. To me the best deadpan line from Rex was:"Prickle in Alaska? meant nothing to me. If it had been "Prick in Alaska?, I might have had a shot."

@Andrea, thanks for articulating what is so special about this puzzle construction. It's clear that Mr. Raymon is very talented, and I hope we will see more from him. And you're right that it's hard for non-constructors to appreciate what it takes to create a wonderful Monday puzzle, but we're learning.

So, this is meant to be constructive feedback: what would have made this puzzle a more enjoyable experience for me is if the theme answers had been either intrinsically funny, or puns on known phrases or even somehow a bit more plausible (as noted by Ulrich). Of course, this might be the best that could be done given the premise of the theme.

This exchange reminds me of what happens when my husband and I go shopping for furniture-- he looks at the construction and I look at the lines. The ones we both love are gorgeously designed and built, esthetically pleasing, and totally unaffordable. Lucky for us, talented constructors can give us both.

Mike the Wino 11:53 AM  

@rex, thank you for the Edie Brickell vid......boy did that take me back. I gotta admit, however, even though I know the "What I Am" song because it still gets a lot of air time, I never paid attention to who the artist was. BUT, she did one of those "you make me weak" songs back in the mid 90's and and had the video to go with it on my old Win95 OS disk as an extra (called "Good Times Bad Times") which can heard here:

Still makes me melt!

dk 11:56 AM  

Outside of a brief delay when I had HORDE as hords this one was about six minutes of fun.

I misread Prickle in Alaska and wondered if it was a clue designed to get more of the GOP into puzzle land, but Stevens did not fit.

EDIE was another of my female pop star crushes and SHES a woman is on my iPod making the musical references easy.

DYE reminds me of a sign for a beauty salon in Maine CUT, CURL and DYE with an interesting graphic.

IGOR brings to mind the movie lines:

What hump?
Walk this way!

and a strong desire to rent Young Fraunk-n-steen.

So no thorns for me.

Newbie 12:04 PM  

Surprised no one mentioned that "tyros" is kinda hard for a Monday puzzle - or is it just me? Never heard of it, had to look it up. Crossing it with TypeA made it particularly difficult for me, as I had T-pea, and was stuck on the missing vowel, thinking it was one word. I continue to have trouble thinking outside the box.

joho 12:24 PM  

@dk: Where wolf? There wolf.

Cheryl 12:59 PM  

@doug and @orange
I also have always thought of hardheaded as stubborn, with a somewhat negative connotation; whereas pragmatism is simply practical, and a trait to be admired. (and yes, that is a bias to justify my own personality!)
For crosswording though, it is good to have the other meanings so thanks for looking it up.

I was slower than usual for a Monday but I enjoyed the puzzle and admired the construction. Especially all the long words in addition to the themes.

evil doug 1:51 PM  

"changed direction" reminded me of Slick Willie after he got caught with his "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" lie before God and country.

"tyros" reminded me of who could become president if the polls hold true.

"hocks" reminded me of Hillary.

"she's a woman" didn't. But it did remind me of Sarah.

"be ok" reminded me of how it would be with me if people demonstrated "restraint" in limiting their political commentary to appropriate venues---or better yet, to themselves. I "detest" politics.

Hurry November, OH

Twangster 2:31 PM  

In mild defense/promotion of Edie Brickell, she's put several solo albums as well as relatively recent reunion album with New Bohemians, all of which are pretty good.

mac 2:38 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 2:38 PM  

I found this puzzle easy, with some nice clues and answers, but I didn't appreciate the great construction feats until reading Rex and Andrea's comments. "Drac" seems off, never saw it before. I also started off with anon, and therefore esta, but it was fixable.

Welcome, Rob, and hi Bill and Barbara.

Wade 2:42 PM  

(Edie Brickell's from Texas.)

chefbea1 3:39 PM  

took a woman to a doctor's appointment today so took the puzzle with me. I had finnished it before they called her to go in to see the doctor. was a fun easy monday puzzle.

Do you think the west stew was on simmer?

@docruth if you subscribe to the new york times weekends only you can sign up to have the times digest sent to you every day. You can then print out the puzzle

Welcome Rob

fergus 4:02 PM  

Does anyone remember the Bullwinkle's Poetry Corner version of the Wordworth poem? Poor moose got busted for picking the public flowers, and ended up in the slammer, where on the couch he lay, in vacant and a pensive mood.

I liked this puzzle so much more than yesterday's. It's hard to qualify, much less quantify, why. Andrea offered some hints, and maybe I'll try later after dealing with my wretched ninth graders.

archaeoprof 4:31 PM  

Much more interesting than most Monday puzzles, don't you think? Add me to the list of those who applaud Daniel Raymon today.

miriam b 4:35 PM  

It's been quite a while since I SAW a FLEA on any of my KATS. I just checked my newly adopted cat, Polly Dactyl, and she's clean from HOCKS to nose. Yes, KATS have HOCKS. I've heard the vets use this term.

Is it conceivable that Vlad the Impaler had pals who called him DRAC? I think not. Unless of course he knew Countess Erzsebet Bathory.

I don't equate SOUTHSHOUT with "scream". I would have preferred "holler".

Linguistic note: TSAR is the correct transliteration from the Cyrillic. CZAR is just wrong. That "ts" is a single character in Cyrillic and sounds, as one would expect, like the diphthong in - well - KATS.

Liked the puzzle OK, but it was really easy.

treedweller 7:05 PM  

I kept pausing mentally as I solved to figure out the theme. I was looking for known phrases that used the cardinal directions but had the directions switched. Needless to say, I never found them. I remember finally giving up on that idea and thinking I should go back when I was done to figure it out, but I forgot, so I heard it here first. Another point for the "Speed-solving spoils the fun" crowd.

But I found the puzzle enjoyable enough, finished in the top 30% (even on the laptop) of solvers who submitted times, and had no mistakes, so I was pretty happy.

@ newbie
Re: TYROS It probably is a word that wouldn't register for most people, so maybe not a Monday word in that sense, but it's such a crosswordy word that most of us get it instantly. You'll remember next time, I'm sure.

markus 7:19 PM  

A good friend of mine's twin brother was beat out by Paul Rudd for head yell leader (as opposed to head cheerleader? I dunno. I guess they're the ones with the giant cone things) in high school. The ironic (and stereotypical) twist being that he was gay and Paul was not. True story.

Orange 8:10 PM  

I asked my 8-year-old who Drac is. He hemmed, he hawed—and then he said it's Dracula's nickname. I gotta tell you, I think anything a third-grader can guess should be fair game for a Monday crossword.

mexicangirl 8:25 PM  

I quit, I give up, nothing's good enough for anybody else
it seems.

(courtesy of Edie Brickell)

andrea carla michaels 9:49 PM  

obviously I love the irony of a newbie not knowing the word tyro!

(personally I think tyro, which I learned in Scrabble, maybe, is not a good word, as it sounds like tyrant...maybe it's meant to sound like try-o...if at first you don't succeed, try-o try-o again)


No fair. You have this little genius boy, whom I'll always have a softspot for...
DRAC is gettable, just not a good word, I don't think, for a Monday.

Do you think Edie had a thing for Popeye's "I am what I am"?

we don't actually would have even been more incredible if they were funny...but how cool to see that all four directions could be "changed"!!!
I mean, what if it were North, South, East and Wust?!!

foodie 3:18 PM  

This is a test, to determine if a trashcan shows up on this post. My original post from the day of the puzzle did have a trashcan. Will this one?

foodie 3:22 PM  

The answer is No... And now, I've lost the trashcan on the original post...So, using current blogger erases the trashcan, even retroactively... hmmm

juliebee 9:39 PM  

4, 5 or 6 weeks later! (who ever knows anymore - I click on "syndicated puzzle" and cross my fingers! I LOVED this puzzle - the construction absolutely jumped out at me this morning, pulled me by the hair and said - "Go see what Rex and everyone says about it". Unfortunately, I had to go to work, so I'm later in the day, but I didn't forget. I think this puzzle rocked - it was one of the most clever puzzles I've seen! How many more exclamation points can I use?!


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